Press Release

WASHINGTON (August 6, 2013) — We are disappointed by the Department of Education’s decision to grant California’s CORE districts a waiver from certain requirements of No Child Left Behind. Granting waivers to individual districts within a state is a dramatic move away from simply providing temporary relief to states while Congress works through a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to create new law. And it sets a dangerous precedent regarding expectations for all students.

By setting common expectations and communicating progress, strong state accountability systems give parents a common yardstick for evaluating schools in their community and making informed choices on behalf of their families. They give educators a clear sense of what kind of improvement is expected and policymakers the ability to assess the impact of their investments in education. They also serve as a backstop to forces that pressure districts to sweep low performance under the rug — especially when it applies to low-income students and students of color — and declare that local schools are doing just fine.

Moving away from a common system of statewide accountability and a state-led commitment to improving student outcomes will result in different expectations for students from one district to the next. Considerable experience tells us that for low-income students and students of color, different expectations far too often mean lowered expectations.

To be clear, these concerns would hold even if the approved plan reflected a strong, well-developed policy framework. But it does not. Rather, the CORE plan has neither a finalized accountability system nor finalized guidelines for teacher evaluations.

All of our students deserve a united approach to their education so that policy and practice are aligned to assure their success in school and beyond. The department’s approval of the CORE districts’ waiver application sets a dangerous precedent that having different expectations for students living in different districts within a state is acceptable.